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Chronic health support group success

A Shepparton woman has a new lease on life thanks to the Chronic Health and Illness Self-Management Support Group which is run by Primary Care Connect.

RIAHN SMITH February 14, 2013 1:40am

Primary Care Connect's Chronic Health and Illness Self Management Support Group, from left, Sonia Makar, chronic conditions self-management key worker; Fiona Buckman, group volunteer; Rebecca Lorains, director of families and counselling.


Fiona Buckman has a new lease on life.

The Shepparton woman, who has lived with depression, obesity and a host of other chronic illnesses for most of her life, is using her experience to help others.

Once a month, Ms Buckman volunteers at the Chronic Health and Illness Self-Management Support Group, a meeting organised by Primary Care Connect to assist people with long-lasting or recurrent illness.

‘‘It’s been a lifesaver (for me),’’ Ms Buckman, 50, said.

‘‘I want to be able to share that with other people. I want my life to show that the group does work, the support we have, it works.’’

The support group was launched in November as an extension of an existing health and illness-management program called My Health, My Life.

It aims to help people who suffer from chronic illness to manage their lives and create strategies to deal things, such as depression, tiredness or fatigue, pain and communication difficulties.

Chronic conditions self-management key worker Sonia Makarcom:chronic conditions self-management key worker Sonia Makar said one of the major benefits of the group was it was not illness-specific.

‘‘You’ll find that people with chronic illness have a lot of the same emotions and problems, although their conditions may be different,’’ Ms Makar said.

‘‘It’s really quite hard for people when they’re struck down by not just one illness, but multiple illnesses.

‘‘There’s so much going on you just don’t know where to start to improve your health and we’re here to try and make the messy head not so messy, we try and compartmentalise it.’’

Ms Buckman suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, type two diabetes, arthritis in her neck, spine, both hips, hands and feet, and an enlarged heart caused by her excessive weight.

She is also a two-time survivor of breast cancer.

Since her involvement with Primary Care Connect began about two years ago, she has shed nearly 30kg and has eliminated her need for regular pain relief.

‘‘I didn’t realise how down I had become. I was existing, not living, there’s a difference. I’m working to get healthy, (but) if I didn’t have the support when I first started I would not have kept going,’’ Ms Buckman said.

‘‘(The program) builds a good support system for people. We encourage each other, we have fun (and) there’s so much laughter.

‘‘These guys make it work, what they do, it’s working, it’s making a difference in peoples lives.’’

For more information, phone Primary Care Connect on 58233200.

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